Saturday, February 13, 2010

faith & explanations

Thinking about Bible stories, faith, children and grown-up explanations. Here's the thing. If you have a child who vividly believes God's stories just as they are, to explain them away steals the wonder and awe and, quite frankly potential for worship, moments of faith, moments of believing. Why would we steal that from a child?

We complain because our children don't believe anymore. It's not like Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy...or maybe that's how we see the scriptures. You're too old to take them at face value. You're too old to believe that stuff're too smart to take it literally...

Is that what we do - mishandle childlike faith, explain it away, laden it with rules until there is no faith - no desire to walk with God in the cool of the day and listen to His stories and talk to Him?

As I recall, Jesus was a magnet. All kinds of people, all ages, came to listen to him. They hung on his every word.

Loving God with all your heart (something children have so much of), all your mind (the capability to know & understand - something destined to keep growing & developing as children grow into adults), all your soul (that deep ever-present place that's always searching & wanting more of God), all your strength (something that grows and changes with age & experience).

These words of Jesus are in the same chapter as the story of the Transfiguration and Jesus healing the boy. Are we keeping a child from sin by explaining something? Sometimes. Are we stealing a moment of faith and belief by explaining something? Sometimes. If we tie a millstone filled with faith undermining explanations around a child's neck that keeps them from faith - do we cause them to sin? If so, we need to look again.

Check out Mark 10:13-16. These passages about children are near each another in the gospels.

If sinning is missing the mark then what does it mean to hit the mark? Loving the Lord my God with all my heart, mind, soul, strength & loving my neighbor as myself? What do God's stories have to do with that?

Maybe it's worth looking at how the simple act of telling God's stories nurtures faith in children, and how we can facilitate without getting in the way. I think that's some of the thinking in Jerome Berryman's work.

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. For children, God's Word takes the form of story, parable, proverb, and 10 commandments that Jesus summed up into two. God's Word grows faith in us. God's stories grow faith in children. That same Word takes form in us as we hear & believe- I would venture to say- no matter how old we are. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. We need to take care lest we undermine that.

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